5 Christmas Do’s and Dont’s

It’s that time of year. Matt and I are gearing up to make the long 11 hour trek back home to Arkansas. It’s been a long seven months since we’ve journeyed that far and I’m really excited to be back in that familiar place. As much as I’ve been preparing for Christmas with all the present buying, advent reading, trip planning, and party attending, I was reminded that I need to take a few minutes to prepare my heart to see my family.

This may seem strange, so let me preface by saying that I think I have the best family in the world and God has seen fit to let me marry into a wonderful family as well. But, it doesn’t matter how wonderful or godly or loving or caring your family is, there is always a potential for tension, arguments, hurt feelings, and resentment when you go home. I think back to my first Christmas three years ago after being married for all of 5 months. It’s like I went home and completely reverted back to my annoying, selfish, dramatic high school self. That didn’t make for an entirely pleasant break.

I’ve learned some things since then about myself and how to love my family well now that I’m a married adult living on my own. I know that my situation is not exactly like everyone else out there but I’m sure most people can relate to spending time with family over Christmas break. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up on and I pray they will continue to take root in my own heart as I prepare to go home this year.

  1. Get to know your family all over again. I do stay in touch with my family fairly regularly, but it’s different when you can’t always have those heart to heart talks in person. It’s good to sit down with parents, siblings, and grandparents and ask THEM what’s going on in THEIR world. So much of growing up had to do with me and my world. Now that I’ve grown and (hopefully) matured, I’m amazed at how much I can get to know my family as FRIENDS rather than “mom” or “dad” or that annoying little brother. (Who’s now a senior in college and has facial hair. Yikes!)
  2. When you are present with either side of the family- be all there. Don’t be looking at the clock or talking about what you will be doing with the other side in a day or two. Give undivided attention to those around you. Join in all the fun that is to be had without abandon. When you leave, you can then switch gears and the family that is left behind will feel like they received good quality time with you.
  3. Act like the adult you are. Don’t all of the sudden revert back to your old habits just because you are home. Let your family see you for who you are now. If there are old feelings of resentment for who you used to be, those feelings will start to die away once your family sees all that God has been doing in your life since you last met.
  4. Give them grace. Your family has missed you probably more than you will know. They will want to spend as much time with you as possible. When it feels overwhelming just remember that this probably won’t happen again for a while and in a few months you will be wishing you could grab lunch with Aunt Susie.
  5. Don’t talk bad about the other family. When you are with your parents, don’t talk bad about what so and so did on the in-law side and vice versa. This will only create tension where there doesn’t need to be any. Don’t bring up negative experiences or compare Christmas gift exchanges, or complain (or apologize) about having to leave and spend time with the other side.

Let me reiterate that I don’t have this all figured out and I’m sure to make mistakes. But I know that even spending a few minutes in prayer asking God to give me grace to love well and fully engage in the holidays with my family can go a long way. Let’s join in imitating the humble Christ-child who gave of himself so that others could know true joy, peace, and forgiveness found only in the good news of the gospel.

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The Reason for the Season

“Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.”

manger-scene I read this as we worked through our first day of our Advent devotional. At first I glazed over it but he picked up on it right away. I had to process through the meaning of “indictment” and what that had to do with Christmas.

You see, Jesus had to come to earth. It was the way of redemption. We are so sinful a human race that we needed a redeemer- someone who would live and breathe like us in order to die for us. So before we can truly understand and enjoy the season, before we can think of the warm-fuzzy, nostalgic, baby Jesus in a manger scene, we have to think of our sin and the great need for a Savior.

So this is what I’m doing this Christmas- contemplating my need. If it weren’t for the fact that Jesus came in the likeness of man- who bore the flesh I bear, who tasted food like I taste, who suffered and mourned like I suffer and mourn, who laughed and cried like I laugh and cry- I would not know salvation and grace. I would not know true joy and peace that we sing about in our Christmas carols. I could not truly delight in Christmas. h07-cross_sunset-10

True the reason for the season is Jesus like the Christmas cards and pins on sweaters say. But it’s Jesus- because of our great need and His great mercy. This is cause for celebration!

God With Us

The word is Incarnational. I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s actually not even really a word. We Christians have a way of making words up. But, I keep having this word come up in my mind because it sums up what Jesus did. He came, God in flesh, to live among us. That just blows my mind when I stop and think about it.

He was the perfect example of how to do ministry in the sense that he lived among the people, he ate with them, he walked with them. He was with them. God with them. I think back to all my Intercultural Studies classes, learning about missions and how best to “do” missions and ministry. Although there may not be the perfect strategy for every place on earth, there is one thing that is ultimately important to reaching the lost no matter where we live. That is: incarnational minstry. This is when you place your family, your life, your activities all among the people you are trying to reach. You shop where they shop. You eat where they eat. You live where they live. This can and should be done by all Christians to some extent whether you live in Boston, MA or New Delhi, India. Jesus did this. He did this so people could see that He was fully human yet He proved He was fully God. Emmanuel. The most incredible concept of Christmas.

Incarnational living is purposefully living out the gospel of Jesus where we live and to those around us.

Here is my favorite Christmas song of the season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.